It felt like I spent all of last month networking, networking and more networking. While it can be a lot of work, I have found some ways to make my networking more effective. More importantly, I’m getting to know people on a deeper level which has made it more fun and more personal. I have also come to realize how important it is to coordinate networking with LinkedIn. Here are a few things that I’m having success with.

Networking Events

You just met someone at an event and had a great conversation. You exchange business cards and move on. What did you do with their business card? If they were a hot prospect then you were probably trying to set up time to meet with them. But if they weren’t, then you might have added them to your email newsletter (with their permission of course) and placed their business card in with a stack of other business cards. Or you did nothing with there business card at all. What a wasted opportunity! Unfortunately, I was guilty of this quite often.

What I try to do now is look up my new acquaintance on LinkedIn. I always find some interesting info on them. Perhaps we have some mutual connections, or went to the same college, or belong to the same associations. I then send an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. I try not to use the STANDARD  email copy they provide but instead write something personal. I usually get an accept. Now I won’t lose track of my new acquaintance because were are connected. Since I monitor LinkedIn regularly, I can send messages wishing them a happy work anniversary, congrats on a new promotion or job or comment on a post they made.

Connect Online and Then Meet

Sometimes while doing online research and I decide to connect with someone. I send them an invite to connect on LinkedIn. If they accept, I see if they would be interested in doing a quick phone call or meet in person. We get to know each other and see if there’s any opportunity to work or help each other.

I also receive invites to connect. If I don’t know the person or they don’t have connections I know personally, then I find out why they want to connect with me. I accept only if they have good reason. I also do not accept invitations to connect especially if I think they are just trying to sell me something. Remember it’s about being social not selling!

Research Referrals on LinkedIn

Many of our businesses succeed because of referrals. We all want referrals to ideal clients but we don’t always get that despite best intentions.

When I give a referral, I ask the person to look up the referee on LinkedIn. If they feel they are someone they want me to introduce them to,  then I will go ahead and introduce them. If not, they didn’t waste their time meeting someone who is not a good business connection.

I do the same thing when I’m given a referral. I don’t believe in wasting anyone’s time.

Tools to Stay Connected

All of the social media platforms are designed to keep their users socially connected. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are my platforms of choice.

The reality is as business owners we don’t have a lot of time to on social media. So I recommend tools like NutshellMail by Constant Contact (a free download), that sends a daily update on all the major platforms of what my connections are doing in one easy to scan email. I also recommend Hootsuite (free version available) which lets me monitor social media feeds.

There is also a LinkedIn smartphone app call cardmunch which let’s you take a picture of a business card and then finds that person on LinkedIn and let’s you connect. Definitely can save you time entering in all the information.

I will usually check these things out a few times a day and on weekends. It takes a little time but well worth it.

Got Your Own Ideas?

If you have some great tips on how to stay connected, please post them. We all can do a better job of networking.